I’ve been a member of AAA for decades even during long periods when I didn’t own a car. Why? In addition to their roadside assistance services AAA offers a multitude of other discounts that are not car related. If you take advantage of these discounts they more than pay for the annual fee. Membership ranges from $50-80 depending on region. My Classic (entry level) membership is $59 a year.
The main way to maximize your AAA membership is through hotel discounts. Once I’ve booked $590 worth of hotel rooms (before the 10% discount) anything I save after that is pure profit.
AAA offers a 5-15% discount at the following major hotel chains:
Courtyard by Marriott
Hampton Inns and Hampton Inns & Suites
Hilton Garden Inns
Hilton Hotels and Resorts
Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Place, Hyatt House, Hyatt
Marriott Hotels & Resorts
Starwood W Hotels, Westin, Sheraton, Four Points
Many chain hotels are franchise-owned and some may not offer AAA rates. You can check hotel websites or search the AAA website by location to see if it’s offered. Some hotels may not offer the AAA discount during their busy season since they know they’ll sell out anyway. I mostly stay at Hyatt’s and my experience is that they all seem to offer a 10% discount even in Canada.
A big advantage of AAA rates is they tend to have a more liberal cancellation policy. Most times when I’m booking through the Hyatt website the AAA rate will match or be a few dollars more than the hotel’s lowest advance purchase rate. There’s the key – the AAA rate is fully refundable and can be usually be cancelled 24 or 48 hours before arrival. Sometimes the AAA rate will include breakfast, a food or beverage credit, free parking or some other perk.
Another advantage of AAA rates is if you’re booking close in to your arrival date. On the Hyatt website the advance purchase rate is not available within 7 or 8 days of arrival whereas the AAA rate is sometimes still available 3 days before arrival.
AAA discount rates can be booked through the hotel website. When you book you will have to enter your member number. I bring my membership card with me since in the last year or so hotels have been asking for it.
AAA Members receive a 10% discount on Amtrak’s lowest available rail fare at the time of reservation. I take one or two Amtrak trips per year with a railroad enthusiast in my family. Sometimes the Amtrak saver fare is less than AAA fare but usually only if you book far in advance. These can be booked directly through Amtrak.
The following select attractions offer discounts when you present your card:
Chicago Botanic Garden save $1 on parking.
Chicago Children’s Museum save $1 on each admission.
Field Museum $1 discount on adult admission and $.50 on senior and children admission.
Legoland Discovery Center Save 10% on the admission price for up to six people.
Lincoln Park Zoo Save 10% at food and retail locations.
Museum of Contemporary Art $2 discount on general admission.
Navy Pier receive a Navy Pier Coupon Book, filled with discounts at dozens of Navy Pier restaurants, attractions and shops.
Six Flags $5 off general front-gate admission, $2 off general front-gate admission at Six Flags Water Parks. 10% discount on merchandise purchases of $15 or more at all Six Flags operated locations. $5 online Print N Go services fee will be waived exclusively for AAA Members. 15%-30% off online tickets (discount varies by park/ticket type/day).
Go Airport Shuttle and Super Shuttle
Go Airport Shuttle offers a 15% discount on all Chicago and suburban rates for airport transfers (Shared Ride Shuttle only). I use this several times a year. Roundtrip to O’Hare from downtown is $58 so I save about $9 per trip.
SuperShuttle offers a $2 discount per person, per trip in the shared ride van service. I’ve used this in Hawaii.
Both shuttles can be booked online or over the phone.
There are many other discounts from car rental to vision services. I also check the site for discounts at my travel destinations. You never know what might come up.
Guides and Maps
Every year I order guides for places I’m traveling to that I’m not familiar with. I like the objective descriptions and ratings for AAA approved hotels and editor’s top pick restaurants and reviews.
For places that I travel to frequently I reorder the guides every couple years and keep them for reference. The guides are also online if you don’t want the paper. And if you’re going to be driving around somewhere remote like Hawaii you will need paper maps. All US guides and maps are free with membership.